Every patient would agree that good nurses make any hospital stay more bearable, to say nothing of producing better results. Nurses are integral members of a health care team; typically they spend more time with patients than doctors do. They observe, assess, record symptoms and reactions, and can add a soothing element of human contact in a trying situation.
But there is a nationwide shortage of Emirati nurses. Only 3 per cent of the 23,000 to 25,000 nurses across the UAE are nationals, according to new statistics revealed at the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress on Sunday. The Emirates Nursing Association’s figures also show that only eight per cent of fully qualified and registered nurses, or just 294 out of a total of 3,561 nurses, are Emiratis. Foreign nurses do good work, but many Emirati patients would benefit from having local caregivers in hospitals.
So it is good news that the Al Jalila Foundation has announced a Dh3 million scholarship programme for Emiratis to specialise in medical studies, including nursing. But this is just one among several efforts in recent years to attract Emiratis into the health care sector, and in general these efforts have yet to show notable results.
As The National reported yesterday, officials are calling for more efforts to address the issue, and especially to encourage more Emiratis to join the nursing workforce. They say that old-fashioned views and misconceptions about the profession may have contributed in pushing Emiratis away from the profession, despite the high demand.
The issue is not exclusive to the UAE. Many countries around the world are facing the same dilemma. Nursing is a challenging profession that requires willingness to take on various roles and responsibilities, and demands resilience in the constantly changing environment of the health care system. Nurses need to keep learning, throughout their careers, as technologies, medications, and best practices keep evolving.
One effective technique in recruiting would be to make clear that nursing can be a tremendously rewarding career for people who enjoy helping others. As Noora Abdul Majid Abubaker, a nursing educator at Dubai Hospital, told the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress, she enjoys the feeling she gets from her patients, which she described as “wonderful”.
The best nurses have a passion for their work and compassion for their patients. Explaining that better could help attract more candidates.